Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Institute for Public Health and Medicine
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The Northwestern Juvenile Project: Next Generation, led by Linda Teplin, PhD, will be the first prospective study of intergenerational transmission of substance use disorders (SUDs) in the children of delinquent youth

Drug Abuse and Related Health Disparities: An Intergenerational Longitudinal Study of Offspring of Delinquent Youth

Funding Agency: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health
Award Date: August 31, 2018
Amount: $2,753,906 (total costs) over 5 years
Principal Investigator:  Linda A. Teplin

Every year in the United States, more than 900,000 juveniles are arrested and approximately 250,000 court cases result in incarceration. Racial/ethnic minority youth and adults are disproportionately incarcerated, especially for drug crimes. To address health inequities, the study team has been conducting the Northwestern Juvenile Project (NJP), a 16-year longitudinal study of health outcomes of youth after detention. Substance use disorders (SUDs) were the most common psychiatric disorders at detention (affecting about one-half of males and females), the most common comorbid disorder, and the most persistent disorder, affecting 1 in 5 participants in young adulthood. Many delinquent youth become parents when young; their offspring are at great risk for SUDs and related problem behaviors. The current investigation, the Northwestern Juvenile Project: Next Generation, will be the first prospective study of intergenerational transmission of SUDs in the children of delinquent youth. The project addresses the limitations of prior intergenerational studies, many of which were conducted overseas and therefore unable to address health inequities in the United States.

We will study n=428 offspring (ages 12-15 years), their parents, n=428, and an additional primary caregiver, estimated n=261. We chose ages 12-15 years because it is a critical developmental period for substance abuse. Leveraging prospective data that have already been collected on parents (up to 14 interviews), the Specific Aims will investigate: (1) intergenerational transmission of substance use, SUDs, and related problem behaviors in offspring; (2) mechanisms of intergenerational transmission, focusing on the exposure of the child to the parents’ substance abuse and to the collateral consequences of the parents’ incarcerations; and (3) how services can ameliorate the intergenerational transmission of substance abuse.

The investigation is innovative by focusing on: (1) parents who have been in the correctional system; (2) the consequences of incarceration; (3) African Americans and Hispanics, groups that are disproportionately incarcerated and who face the most serious consequences of drug abuse; (4) use and disorder, examining 10 subcategories of substances: marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogen/PCP, opioid, amphetamine, inhalant, sedative, unspecified drug, alcohol, and tobacco; (5) resilience to intergenerational transmission in an exceptionally high-risk population; (6) patterns of homotypic and heterotypic continuity.

The study responds to (1) the National Academy of Medicine’s call for translational research to address the social determinants of health disparities; (2) the NIMHD Strategic Plan, which requests studies to address disparities in the causal factors of substance abuse; (3) the NIAAA Health Disparities Strategic Plan to build a knowledge base for populations that have received less attention in studies of alcohol abuse; and (4) the NIDA 2016-2020 Strategic Plan to identify environmental, behavioral, and social causes and consequences of addiction and determine mechanisms that underlie individual risk and resilience for addiction. 

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